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By John Julius Norwich

"Norwich is often searching for the small yet revealing information. . . . All of this he recounts in a method that regularly entertains."
--The ny occasions booklet overview

In this magisterial model of his epic three-volume historical past of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich chronicles the world's longest-lived Christian empire. starting with Constantine the good, who in a.d. 330 made Christianity the faith of his realm after which transferred its capital to town that may endure his identify, Norwich follows the process 11 centuries of Byzantine statecraft and struggle, politics and theology, manners and art.

In the pages of A brief background of Byzantium we come upon mystics and philosophers, eunuchs and barbarians, and rulers of wonderful erudition, piety, and degeneracy. We input the lifetime of an empire which could create a few of the world's such a lot transcendent spiritual artwork after which wreck it within the convulsions of fanaticism. Stylishly written and overflowing with drama, pathos, and wit, here's a matchless account of a misplaced civilization and its great cultural legacy.

"Strange and engaging . . . choked with drollery and horror."                          
--Boston Globe

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Additionally, morale within the Roman military used to be dangerously low. foodstuff used to be brief; the rivers have been all in flood; the warmth was once murderous; and the flies, Ammianus tells us, have been so thick that they blotted out the sunshine of the solar. Julian, he is going on, used to be nonetheless in favour of advancing extra into Persian territory; yet his generals refused. On sixteen June the retreat all started. Ten days later, close to Samarra, the military unexpectedly got here lower than heavy assault. once more the feared elephants have been introduced into motion, once more the air used to be thick with spears and arrows. with out pausing to strap on his breastplate, Julian plunged into the thick of the fray, shouting encouragement to his males as he fought of their midst; and simply because the Persians have been commencing to retreat, a flying spear struck him within the aspect. It used to be extracted from deep in his liver, however the harm used to be performed. He died earlier than dead night, in line with legend, scooping up a handful of the blood that was once flowing from his wound and murmuring the phrases, ‘Thou hast conquered, Galilean! ’ Julian used to be thirty-one on the time of his dying, and had occupied the imperial throne for simply nineteen and a part months. As an Emperor he was once a failure. He wasted his time and effort on a hopelessly quixotic try and revive an ill-defined and moribund faith, to the detriment of that which was once to offer the Empire its binding strength for one thousand future years; he made himself completely unpopular together with his topics, Christian and pagan alike, who hated his puritanism and his ceaseless sermonizing; and he got here on the subject of destroying the whole imperial military in a crusade which resulted in close to disaster. And but, of the entire eighty-eight Emperors of Byzantium, it really is Julian, might be greater than the other, who has stuck the mind's eye of posterity. His actual tragedy lies now not in his inaccurate guidelines or in his early dying, yet within the hairsbreadth wherein he did not in achieving the greatness which he in such a lot of methods deserved. Few monarchs have possessed his intelligence, his schooling and tradition, his strength and undefined, his braveness and management, his integrity and incorruptibility, his wonderful skill to sublimate himself within the carrier of his Empire and, exceptionally, of his gods. unfortunately, even though, he additionally possessed faults, which made any lasting success very unlikely: first, his non secular fanaticism; moment, an absence of sharpness and definition in his considering. He may perhaps occasionally be interestingly indecisive. time and again we discover him asking the gods for suggestions, whilst he must have been taking judgements for himself. maybe, had he lived, he may have triumph over either those faults and proved himself one of many maximum of Roman Emperors. yet he didn't dwell. He died, within the so much attribute approach he may have died, bravely yet unnecessarily, leaving not anything however the reminiscence of a faulty younger visionary who tried to alter the realm – and failed. three The Empire at Bay [363–95] discovering itself on Julian's demise with out a chief, the Roman military assembled en masse early the next morning to appoint his successor.

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